The Pittsburgh Pirates made their 40-man roster additions today, adding Austin Meadows, Dario Agrazal, and Luis Escobar to protect each player from the upcoming Rule 5 draft. Meadows and Escobar were expected additions, while Agrazal was part of a larger group of players who were on the fringe.
Meadows was an easy choice to make, since he could have been in the majors this year if it weren’t for injuries delaying his development. He should get another shot next year, with the hope that he can stay healthy and finish his development in the minors. He still remains in the plans as a future starter in Pittsburgh’s outfield.
Escobar is one of the better arms in the lower levels, featuring some of the best strikeout ability in the system. He’s got a few years of development remaining, with the main focus being his control issues. He should go to Bradenton in 2018, and might have a shot at Altoona in the second half if he gets things figured out.
In my preview, I pointed out Tyler Eppler, Adrian Valerio, and Eduardo Vera as guys who could be protected. All three would rank in our top 50 prospect group, with Eppler being a guy who can help as MLB depth in 2018. Valerio and Vera provided the challenge of protecting several options from the lower levels, when paired with Escobar. Of the three, the guy I think would be most likely to be taken is Eppler, who is a hard-throwing right-hander who could be a bullpen option right now.
The Pirates instead opted to protect Agrazal, who is another hard-throwing right-hander, getting up to 97 MPH with his sinker this year. Agrazal shows impressive control and a lot of movement on his pitches, while also working to improve his breaking pitch this year. He did suffer an injury in the second half, but that’s not a long-term issue. It only shortened his time in Altoona after a promotion. He’s got the upside to at least be a future relief option in the majors, although that won’t happen in 2018. He should start back in Altoona, with the chance to move to Indianapolis by the end of the year.
There were four open spots on the 40-man roster prior to these moves. The Pirates also traded Gift Ngoepe for a player to be named later or cash considerations, opening another spot. There are now two spots open.
UPDATE: 7:20 PM: John Dreker talked with Luis Escobar after he got the news of being added to the 40-man roster. Escobar was obviously excited, as he told John, who provided the translation:
“First of all, I’m grateful to God for giving me this great opportunity and also with the Pirates for trusting me, therefore I’m very happy”
The addition to the 40-man roster will get all of these players automatic invitations to Major League Spring Training.